Feb. 7, 2009
Allie Niekamp, a four-year letterwinner for the Georgia Tech volleyball team from 2005-08, is participating in the Study Abroad program to Australia and New Zealand this semester. She will periodically be checking in with Yellow Jacket fans about her trip via blogs on Ramblinwreck.com. Check back frequently to see the latest from Allie!
Hi I’m Allie Niekamp and I am a former Georgia Tech volleyball player. After I finished up my senior season this fall I headed to New Zealand to study abroad for the spring semester. I will actually be in New Zealand for six weeks and then Australia for six weeks. I take classes Monday through Thursday and then we have Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays to explore the country. Matt Braman, a former Georgia Tech football player is here also. Matt and I were lucky enough to be able to take this once in a lifetime trip and I will be sending weekly updates about our travels.
My first week in New Zealand was absolutely amazing. When I got back Sunday evening from Abel Tasmen I was exhausted! By the time the second week came around I was starting to learn my way around Wellington a little bit better, which isn’t saying much considering how bad I am with directions. I also started to get a little bit of a feel for the culture. In many ways New Zealand is not so different from America, but the more I got to meet New Zealanders the more differences I noticed. The native people of New Zealand are called the Maori and everyone else, mainly people or European descent or in general white people, are called Pakeha. I am very impressed with how strong the Maori culture is and on Tuesday I visited the Te Papas museum, which is kind of like New Zealand’s Smithsonian. In Te Papas there was a floor dedicated to the Maori customs and way of life.
Just as the week before, the school days flew by and it was once again the weekend. On Thursday evening I got on a flight to Auckland, New Zealand’s capital, with Matt Braman and five other girls. Once we arrived in Auckland we rented two cars and drove a few hours to the Bay of Islands, which is near the top of the North Island. I’m not sure how we made it there alive because Matt was driving the car I was in. New Zealanders drive on the other side of the road and the driver side is where the passenger side normally is in the States. Although the brakes were still in the same place you wouldn’t have known it with how Matt was flying around the windy roads without them. We almost crashed several times but managed to make it to the Bay of Islands in one piece. The stars were out in full force that night. I don’t think I have ever seen so many stars in the sky before.
On Friday morning the six girls got up early and went out on a boat to go swimming with wild dolphins. It was a four-hour trip where we went around looking for pods of dolphins. We saw a few different groups and the dolphins came right up to the boat. Unfortunately if there are baby dolphins in the pods we can’t get in the water with them, and every group we saw had baby dolphins. So I didn’t get to swim with any dolphins but it was still a really fun trip. Once we got off the boat, Kristine Jansen (another girl in the program) and I met up with Matt for lunch and then went deep-sea fishing. I had never gone fishing in the ocean before but have fished many times in lakes – it is completely different though. The weight of the bait alone made me continually think I had a fish on my pole and it would take me five minutes to wind the hook in to see that there was no fish on there. However, in the four hours I managed to catch four red snapper, two of which we had to through back because they were two small. Matt caught a huge red snapper and a very large blue cod. The blue cod came in after it managed to tangle up all six of the fishing lines on the boat. Toward the end of our trip we fished for sharks for a while … apparently in the morning group, the boat caught five Mako sharks. I was not disappointed when we didn’t catch any. Once we were back on land we took the fish we had caught to a nearby restaurant and had our fish beer battered and ate them. It tasted so good!
Early Saturday morning we packed up and headed back toward Auckland. On the way back we got to see all that we had missed in the dark two nights before. The scenery was beautiful. The hills and trees and fields were picturesque. About two hours into our drive we noticed a sign for a waterfall. So we followed the sign and went to see it. Once we got there someone had the smart idea to jump in at the bottom and swim to the waterfall – even though no one else was doing it. So we all got in (I more fell than jumped but got in nonetheless.) The water was FREEZING cold – it was no wonder no one else was swimming in there. Several tourists took pictures of the crazy Americans and were pointing at us from above. After taking a few pictures we quickly got out and headed back up to the top. At the top we followed the river a little ways and found another water pond that people were actually swimming in. There was also a rope in a tree that people were swinging off of and into the water. So we joined and were happy to find the water not quite so cold. It was a completely random stop but we had a great time. We changed out of our wet clothes and got back into the car and headed to Auckland.
We spent the night at a hostel in Auckland and enjoyed some of the nightlife there. We went to a place called Minus 5, the location of which was made completely out of ice! We had to put on parkas and gloves and boots to go in and were only allowed in for 20 minutes. It was really cold in there but so cool. Everything was made of ice – the walls, bar, tables, couches, statues, even the cups were made of ice. Matt even ate his cup after finishing his drink. Unfortunately we were not allowed to bring cameras in so I don’t have any pictures but if anyone ever visits Auckland, I would definitely recommend visiting Minus 5.
The next morning we were picked up by a shuttle and taken about 45 minutes outside of Auckland to go “Canyoning”. We had to put on full wet suits and helmets and we repelled down a waterfall, went in underwater caves and jumped off ledges. It was a little bit scary but so much fun! After we finished that, the shuttle bus driver took us to the beach down the road for a little while and then drove us back to Auckland. I wish we would have done the full day trip instead of just the half-day, but we had to catch a flight back to Wellington. It was another amazing week in New Zealand!
I hope everyone is doing well back in the States, especially my volleyball girls. I miss you guys!